How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Hamilton Alabama
Getting a physical therapy degree near Hamilton AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research the ones you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Hamilton AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Hamilton AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees
There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Hamilton AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to finish and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer offered in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Online Colleges
While not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Hamilton AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapy Programs
At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Hamilton AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you choose the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Ask if the programs you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact a few Hamilton AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school selections. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.
What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Hamilton AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment after graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you select furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are evaluating have relationships with Hamilton AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional connections in the Hamilton medical community and help with job placement after licensing.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Hamilton AL residence. Students who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance office and see what kind of help is available. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance might be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Hamilton AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Hamilton Physical Therapy School
Selecting the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that a number of variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to visit different schools to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Hamilton Alabama.